I exercised Chico in the spot where the new round pen will go, but all that is there right now is the flattened base and stakes to mark the edges. Despite the fact that the location does not have any fill/footing yet, it was so wonderful to lunge a horse on a flat spot! I've been doing it for the last couple years in the yard which is sloped. I really wanted to evaluate him to see if he's stiff, or if it might be the saddle that made him reluctant to canter last time. He's never been reluctant to canter before. He's always had a lot of go, but he is older now (7 years), and a bit overweight. Well, I saddled him up with the new saddle, but a different saddle pad (one I usually use with him). When I lunged him at the trot and canter, he was quite full of himself, arching his neck and really floating at the trot, and then at the canter he was still arched but sort of jumping...not really a buck, but not a nice fluid canter either. He did that last time I lunged him too (actually, he often does this almost buck thing when lunged at the canter when being warmed up), but I just wondered if he was doing it out of discomfort or out of freshness. Well, he did the jumping canter for several rounds and through several changes of direction, and then suddenly he switched to a relaxed 3-beat canter. So, I know he can do it. I'm still uncertain about the cause of it, but I suspect it is freshness.
Even so, I do think that he is a little stiff. The leg that he was cut on is his right hind, and he toes in a little on his left front (always has). Being a little stiff on that hind might make his diagnonal front compensate a bit more which might make him even more asymmetrical than the simple toe-in when he moves. Last time I rode with this saddle, he has a dry spot on the left side of his wither. While out on the trail after we warmed up, I noticed that my saddle kept feeling like it was crooked. I kept straightening it, then realized it was centered on his withers, but the rear of the saddle kept tipping off to the right. So, I think his left wither has a little more muscling which is pushing the saddle crooked and also giving him that dry spot. It's interesting, but I never noticed it in the old saddle that I always used on him. Chico didn't seem as reluctant to canter today on the trail either. He did seem to tire quickly, but I think he's overweight, and he's always been good at looking out for himself. When he's tired going up a hill, he has no problem stopping to rest. I stayed on my parent's land for my ride today because my dogs came along. We stopped at the pond so they could swim. Chico walked right in too and set to pawing the water.
I'm happy to report that he didn't really have a dry spot today after our ride using the different saddle pad with the new saddle.
I wish I had more time to work with Chico, because it seems that he might need some work with getting the two sides of his body to match in flexibility and strength. He was a very good boy today. I took a pocket full of treats along with me when I lunged him, and then also had them out on the trail. It's amazing what a little treat will do for Chico's willingness. Not that he's bad without them, but his try is so much more obvious when he knows a treat might be in the future. And after I turned him back out in the pasture, he hung around the gate, waiting to see if I perhaps had a few more treats, even though all the others were grazing in the big pasture out of sight.
I am so excited about finally having a round pen to work horses in. Now, I feel like I can actually progress with the two wild ones. I'll have a large safe place to do exercises and introduce them to new things. And it will be big enough that they can actually move out! I used to work with them in their little BLM approved pens. I've messed around with Griffin out in the pasture on a lead line before, but he was confused about lunging because I never really do it with him - I've always been more about getting him to come to me than getting him to move away from me. My time with them is so sporadic and when I do work with them, it is totally unstructured, but I guess every little bit helps. Now, with a round pen available, I feel like I will be able to make more of a schedule to work with them...wait, except that I'm heading back to school in a few weeks. Oh man!
So, a bit more about the round pen.
A year and a half ago, in spring, I went researching prices for 50' round pens. I was specifically looking for 6 ft high panels to use with working wild ones, and I wanted extra heavy duty panels...nothing lightweight that would bend easily if they were bumped into. I found some but the cost was so prohibitive! Finally, I found a company, Chubby Baird Gates, that makes and sells the heavy duty round pen panels for much much cheaper. The panels are not fancy, but they are completely functional. And we actually got them cheaper than listed on their website because the dealer we went through gave us a bit of a deal. My husband was actually so impressed with them, that they purchased a ton more this year to use with their cattle.
And I've called a couple places about getting fill in for footing. The limestone gravel screenings will pack too hard, and crushed granite is just too cost prohibitive, especially since we aren't even sure how well it will work, so we've decided to use sand for now. If the sand is too cushy, we will find something to add to it to firm it up.